Accueil > Critique de la technologie, Texts in English > Encyclopédie des Nuisances, In the Name of Reason, 2001

Encyclopédie des Nuisances, In the Name of Reason, 2001

The Encyclopedie des Nuisances pronounces its judgment against GMOs on the occasion of the 2001 trial of one of its members, Rene Riesel, for the sabotage of transgenic rice in France, and predicts that « a series of high-tech debacles will deprive us of the comforts of this artificial life and will brutally plunge us into a devastated world » unless a resistance movement against « necrotechnologies » arises and puts an end to the industrial sterilization of the world.

The facts that will be judged in court in Montpellier on February 8, 2001 (concerning the sabotage, in June 1999, of a variety of CIRAD (1) experimental transgenic rice on the initiative of the “Intercontinental Caravan”(2)) marked the culminating point of a campaign conducted for almost two years against the agricultural applications of genetic engineering. The goal of this campaign was to “finish what was started, passing from attacks against private companies to the primary and necessarily frontal offensives against public research. Not the undiscoverable public research to which a sui generis virtue would be imputed that would convert it into a sanctuary and exonerate it from any responsibility in this world as it exists, but the real public research, caught red-handed.”(3)

The introduction of “Genetically Modified Agricultural Organisms”, which would have passed unnoticed without this sort of informational campaign, generally awoke great indignation and conferred an aura of sympathy around those who used such methods to oppose the crossing of this new threshold of the artificialization of life. And it was with such a dispersion of genetic chimeras that the project of irreversibly subjecting the heart of natural life―its autonomous reproduction―to industrial logic began to be applied on a large scale; that this sterilization was presented in agriculture as an attack on all the ancient connections with nature that were thought to be safe; and that, finally, the comforting thought that there should be, among those most directly threatened―the farmers―a capacity for response which had disappeared everywhere else, which could even be taken for a gesture on behalf of the alimentary security of city-dwellers. But the attempt to supplant nature, to replace it with a bureaucratically manageable techno-sphere, has only just begun to be judged for what it is. The expulsion of nature, its confinement to a certain number of protected multifunctional parks, not only signifies the end of the whole countryside (in those places where it still exists) and of all knowledge acquired in the rational appropriation of the environment, but also the end of human reason itself, which can only be constituted by encountering a limit in the form of the external and internal nature of the human being, a limit, so to speak, which would resist it: “this outside which man needs in order not to close himself off within himself, that is, so as not to collapse into solipsism, in the delirious logic of omnipotence.” On the other hand, one can already prove by merely looking at those children brought up “without land”(4), but with computers, what comprises the “training” of a being whose only future is the interactively malleable universe of digitalized representations.

At the very moment when domination proposes, on the basis of blind genetic experiments, to confine humanity within a technological prison and then to throw away the key, we are in greater danger than ever before. Not due to the advent of an improbable totalitarian perfection: there is not the slightest doubt that the functional techno-sphere they are preparing for us (5) will be as safe as any ultramodern superhospital managed by computers; but due to the fact that when men become ever yet more dependent―through not having escaped in time and by their own will from this industrial incarceration―there will be very few domains left where freedom can be exercised and, as a result, a series of high-tech debacles will deprive us of the comforts of this artificial life and will brutally plunge us into a devastated world. Men, frightened at having been freed to their own devices, weakened, without memory and consequently without the imagination to do anything else under the yoke of a necessity besides recycling the vestiges of old submissions―to what new protectors will they turn?

After the example of the sabotage of the industrial chimeras, at the moment when the disaster of a mode of production is becoming so obvious (particularly with the climatic disorder whose effects on natural life are even more direct than those of genetic manipulation), the conditions exist for an anti-industrial opposition to arise and to declare itself as such. If it does not expand to embrace the totality of all technological constraints, the terrain of the “anti-GMO” struggle will remain occupied―that is to say parasitized―by diverse substitutes for critique, which are furthermore combined with such ease in the unctuous rhetoric of antiglobalization: either the complacent denunciation in the style of Attac (6) or Le Monde Diplomatique, where indignation sanctifies itself as the highest degree of consciousness without anybody ever saying anything against modern life (rather the contrary, everyone is agape at the field of liberty opened up by cybermilitantism), and still less against the State, towards which they appeal in order to some day establish civil transparency and happiness; or ecologically correct consumerism, which demands “good products”, and even a “healthy life”, in order to be able to continue to support the total industrialization of the world (it must be seen how far the scarcely dissimulated corporativism of a Bové, on trial with Riesel at Montpellier, contributes to the nourishment of the public relations illusion of agro-industry labeled as product of the land); or, finally, the perennial leftism always searching for just causes with which it can sustain its activist bluff, and which despite everything does not want to consider the real alternative of opposition to necro-technologies, preferring to soak everything in its typical soup of “anticapitalist” slogans (such “movement” leftism (7) furthermore serves to a great extent as a pool of demonstrator-pawns and manipulable tools for the neo-statists and “citizenists”, as recently was witnessed in Nice). In the different counsels offered by false consciousness―because it is so reassuring to focus on a capitalism which would not be identical to the process of the mechanization of the world, but only its commercial excrescence―we meet the same illusory compromise between that which one is forced to admit and that which one wants to believe.

One must therefore arrive at the ultimate consequences of the critique if we want to combat technological rationalism in the name of reason (and not in the name of one of the multiplicity of illusions of individual evasion of the industrial world which this society insists on allocating: synthetic spiritualities, sectarian nature-worship, enlightened irrationalism, cyberlife in the countryside, etc.). When a biologist somewhat less decerebrated than his colleagues takes account of the fact that genetically improved man, with standardized interchangeable parts, including the brain, would lose “all identity, all self-consciousness” (8), it is fitting to understand that only to the degree that said “self-consciousness” has already been extinguished does it turn out to be possible to propose, as if it were good news, the promise of total dependence on technological prostheses and genetic manipulations, without even seeing that this sordid promise is actually a sovereign lie, like all the pseudo-medicine that tries to adapt the human being to a morbid environment. Of course, the fiascos of transgenetics will fail to bring us, miserably immortal, to a cybernetic fantasyland. But in what condition will the “consciousness” of men be left who await all this, who accept being the docile guinea pigs of such in vivo cryogenic experiments?

Before the pressure of necessity ends up imposing upon a dying nature emergency procedures and step-by-step evacuations (the necessity, for example, of adapting crops to the new climatic regime), appeals are still made, towards the end of justifying this technological brutality, to the atavism and insatiable curiosity of humanity, or even to the no less inveterate taste of mankind for adventure, novelty, variety, etc. In reality, a sensible individual, that is to say, the individual who has not renounced the use of his senses, will find nothing which satisfies or even arouses his curiosity in this enterprise of simplification that does nothing except by means of devitalization and methodical sterilization: we never leave the laboratory, which embraces everything, and we end up finding everywhere the same mechanistic presuppositions and the same technical procedures. And this lugubrious uniformity comprises the proclaimed adventure? The adventure and the discovery will rather consist in the liberation from the obstacles imposed by our prostheses and carapaces, in the rediscovery of the life of experimental sensations, without digital filters, in the journey on foot towards the re-encounter with the world of material needs, of the tangible realities upon which one can act oneself; it will also consist of the continuing experiment with forms of community capable of consciously choosing both technical tools as well as pertinent modes of association and mutual aid. And these communities, free because they are limited, will also be able to face the emergencies that henceforth will be imposed by the deterioration of managed survival, and will in any event be able to do so much better than the society of managed survival, and much better than the mass society regimented by gigantism, which does not “resolve” (9) problems so much as amplify them.

A critique of industrial society cannot sidestep the refutation of the entire system of needs (we recall only the way in which the antinuclear struggles declined and disappeared due to their not having questioned the needs that justified the excesses of the energy industry). The best way to draw a clear line around all the progressivisms, cutting short the metaphysical discussions concerning the virtuous or non-virtuous character of scientific research, public or private, is to ask: How can we credit it with such good intentions or a perspective of a brilliant future if we all suffocate under its effects? In the world of industrial and commercial monopoly of the sciences, arts and trades, no one is scientifically innocent. Beyond basic solidarity, the Montpellier Trial can be the opportunity to defend the best reasons to sabotage the State’s chimeras―the reasons that can drown out the predictable clamor for “public research” and “citizens control”; everyone can take a stand so that insignificance does not get the last word this time, and so that those who have nothing to say are not as usual the only ones who express themselves. Otherwise the “mobilization” for this Trial will have to be added to the list of fastidiously festive non-events, fiestas like Millau (10) and the other carnivalesque parades of noble sentiments.

Encyclopédie des Nuisances,
January 12, 2001.

Translate from the Spanish translation.


1. Centre International de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement.

2. The Intercontinental Caravan was an initiative of the organization Acción Global de Los Pueblos, which brought more than 500 peasants from India, Latin America and Africa to Europe to demand “a world where local communities will control the local economy, where the centralization of economic and political power will disappear, where economic growth and unbridled consumption will give way to social perspectives such as equality and quality of life, where militarism and aggression will be nothing but a bad memory” (Manifesto of the Intercontinental Caravan).

3. René Riesel, in a text written for the journal L’Ecologiste, in its Fall 2000 issue, included in the new expanded edition of the Déclarations sur l’agriculture transgénique et ceux qui prétendent s’y opposer, Editions Encyclopédie des Nuisances, Paris, 2001.

4. That is, removed from nature, like greenhouse crops, which grow in a completely artificial environment.

5. For example, testing the dumping of iron filings in the southern ocean in order to stimulate phytoplankton’s photosynthesis and thus to increase their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, thereby solving the problem of the greenhouse effect.

6. The Association pour la Transaction des Taxations financièrs pour l’Aide aux citoyens, formed in 1998 on the initiative of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, is the “citizenist” organization par excellence which believes that the imposition of the Tobin Tax on international capital movements will achieve the necessary idyllic balance between capital and the State, the basis of democracy.

7. Mouvementisme, a new form of leftist militantism based on the media-political exploitation of conflicts related to the social marginalization of important sectors of the population―temp workers, the unemployed, homeless, immigrants, those who suffer discrimination, etc.―through the creation of quasi-virtual associations that pass themselves off as social movements.

8. Article in the New York Times Magazine cited in Courrier International, Dec. 21, 2000.

9. {An untranslatable play on words in French.}

10. A demonstration of farmers and citizens that took place on August 12, 1999, during the course of which a McDonalds Restaurant under construction was damaged. According to the organizers, it was a symbolic action against economic imperialism and in defense of the unique lifestyle of the farmers who make Roquefort cheese: “The citizens understand that to meddle with the land, the tradition and the quality of products with a denomination of origin amounted to an attack on the relation between the farmer, his customs and the consumer” (François Dufour, in The World is Not a Business, Ed. Pagès, Lérida).

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